Sue and I haven’t had a real home base for the last two years but returning to Norfolk Virginia is as close as it gets for now. Of course I guess “being home” is really more an emotional state than physical location so as long as Sue and I are traveling together we feel at home. But we do have many fond memories of the region of Virginia known as Tidewater or now more commonly referred to as Hampton Roads.

Tidewater was a place for many firsts in our lives as individuals and as a couple, i.e. first “real job”, new car, house,… In June 1979 I was a young Navy Corpsman in San Diego California with a Ford Mustang and orders to report to Naval Regional Medical Center Portsmouth Virginia. I had always dreamt of driving across America and now it was going to become a reality plus the Navy was going to pay for the gas. Of course I didn’t ask the Navy to send me across the country. I liked living in San Diego and actually asked the Navy to keep me there or station me anywhere they wanted to in California but per the “needs of the Navy” I was ordered to report to Virginia.

San Diego California 1979

Sue also arrived in Tidewater Virginia in 1979. She had hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Northern Virginia but came off the trail when a bear got her food bag and she had just enough money for bus fare home. After a short stay with the folks in upstate New York she headed to Virginia Beach where she sold T-shirts, sanded wood for a cabinet maker, worked as a Naturalist for the state and was robbed at gun point while working the night shift at a convenience store.


California in the summer of 1979 was in the grips of a gas shortage and you could only buy gas every other day. It took me two nervous days to drive across California but once out of the state I could buy gas on any day. After brief stops in Vegas and the Grand Canyon I headed north to Yellowstone where three years earlier I had spent a blissful summer working in the park. It was early in the season and sleeping in a tent at 8,000 feet in a cheap sleeping bag made for long, cold nights. The highlight of the trip was taking a raft down the Snake River. It was just a one-day trip but the water was high, fast and frigid. At our pullout was a pool filled with warm water supplied by the local hot springs. I buried myself up to my chin and through the hazy steam rising from the waters surface I watched the snowflakes accumulate on the heads of the other bathers. It was one of the more memorable leave days I had as a young sailor.

My brother-in law, sister, me and little brother. They rode with me from
San Diego to Chicago on my cross coutry drive to Virginia.
Little brother adding humor to the moment

The excitement of the Rockies gave way to the vast openness of the plains, then the green farmlands of the Mississippi Flyway and Ohio River Valley followed by the beauty of the old, worn Appalachian Mountains and finally the lowlands of Tidewater Virginia. Little did I know I would spend the next six years in Virginia and then return again and again. I spent the first two years as a corpsman then another four as a college student.

Naval Regional Medical Center Portsmouth Virginia Christmas1979

In February 1982, Sue with her Ivy League degree and five years of odd jobs under her belt was ready to embark on a “real career”. She parked her motorcycle then walked straight to the ladies room where she changed into interview clothes and stowed her motorcycle gear for the ride home. Apparently the interview went well as she spent the next four years working as a Chesapeake Virginia police officer.

She’s lost the motorcycle but is still sporting the dimples that caught my eye in Chicago

She patrolled my neighborhood but for better or worse we never met during those years we lived in Virginia. We finally met in 1985 when we both relocated to Chicago for grad school but it was her Tidewater Bicycle Association sticker and Virginia license plate that first caught my eye – along with her dimples. Seven years later we were married and once again I was headed back to the Naval Regional Medical Center Portsmouth Virginia but this time it was my first choice of duty stations and the Navy agreed. We spent another five years in Tidewater rekindling old friendships, making new ones and learning the doctoring part of medicine that they can’t teach you in medical school. Today Sue’s sister and her family lives in Tidewater and we happily return there a couple times a years to celebrate the holidays, work on the garden, visit old friends and retrace our steps in the area where we came of age.

One of the reasons we use Tidewater as a home base today.
Girls having fun in Norfolk 2012

Categories: Biking, Hiking, Travel

Tags: , , ,

6 replies

  1. I loved the way you narrate your story, its simple yet engaging, hope to hear more from you on regular basis.

  2. If the Tidewater has been paved over to match the cementing of Southern California, the historical reality is by now maybe best found in books… Looking at the amount of concrete we’ve added to the earth’s surface leaves me wondering how removing it’s ingredients from underground has so far failed to collapse our sphere…

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post and getting more background on both of you. Thank you!

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